Published on March 21, 2023 by Arquib Ismail
Most financial service organisations reached maturity in their digital marketing operations over the last decade. The typical asset manager or investment bank often has dedicated functional teams and established processes to manage websites, email marketing and social media. They have, at the minimum, a basic framework for analytics, and can ascertain the relative success of campaigns they run. However, these developments are not sufficient anymore. Companies need to evolve constantly and calibrate marketing efforts to adjust for shifts in customer behaviour, uncertain economic conditions and changing regulatory requirements. In this article, we read the pulse of digital marketing today and explore trends and opportunities for companies this year.
Operational optimisation of digital marketing processes
The dismal economic climate has led to diminishing returns in the financial services sector. The slowdown is only expected to accelerate as the year progresses. Companies in the sector need to improve operational efficiency, limiting marketing spending to essential operations. This emphasis on efficiency has many marketing managers thinking about optimisation, which can be achieved across several dimensions, as discussed below.
To start with, web content processes can be streamlined. Using standardised content formats, reusable graphics and simple, yet effective, layouts can conserve operational capacity for web production, as could using reusable templates and defined content structures for email marketing. Text-based emails have seen renewed interest as marketers attempt to offer a personal touch with minimal effort. It is of paramount importance to vigilantly monitor key indicators such as web traffic levels, bounce rates, email open rates and conversions to actively determine return on investment for marketing efforts.
Outsourcing is frequently relied on as an effective means of achieving cost efficiency. In the past decade, Acuity Knowledge Partners (Acuity) has helped many companies in the sector adapt and thrive by providing specialist offshore expertise and capacity without having to sacrifice the quality of digital marketing efforts.
Increasing competition in the battle for web traffic
Most marketers are aware of the impact of search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts on the ranking of webpages on search engines. They recognise the potential of improved organic traffic in improving conversion and maximising profits. The traditional technique was to use targeted keywords and metadata to draw prospective clients to the website’s homepage. In the past two years, however, marketers have explored alternative means, such as employing SEO-optimised landing pages using niche keywords, specifically designed to target positions on search engines and pay-per-click advertising campaigns.
Enthusiastic digital marketers have gone a step further and analysed the speed and performance of individual landing pages, using tools such as Page Speed Insights and Lighthouse. Besides increased conversion rates, a faster page portrays a positive psychological perception of the brand. Thus, digital marketers are incentivised to rethink website infrastructure and content layouts to maximise performance.
Acuity helps clients analyse and benchmark web performance statistics. Our SEO teams work with clients to establish and execute plans to inculcate an SEO-first ideology to ensure page speed and performance are prioritised as changes to the website, both content- and design-driven, are executed.
Closer collaboration between the website development and digital marketing teams
Due to these factors, there is a trend towards close collaboration between digital marketing and front-end teams. This nexus provides marketing with greater control over the layout and design of websites, empowering them to execute campaigns on websites seamlessly. Marketing teams with access to front-end web development teams can also prioritise technical SEO and performance optimisations and implement granular measurement and tracking functionality.
Headless content management systems
Another trend within web content management is the concept of headless content management systems (CMS), where the content structures of a website are disjointed from the presentation of such content. The content is maintained on a CMS and any required data (e.g., fund data) is obtained from separate sources. A separately managed and maintained website front end would then leverage this content and render it to a user. This bifurcation of responsibilities allows content editors to focus purely on the content, while designers and developers maintain the theme and rendering of the website.
A headless CMS also gives front-end teams the flexibility to choose an alternative technology stack, as opposed to one mandated by the CMS. Therefore, they can experiment with cutting-edge frameworks such as React and Next.JS to leverage features such as static site generation and server-side rendering, providing slick interfaces that are blazing fast and search engine-friendly. They allow speedier development processes so digital marketing teams do not have to wait long before their vision is implemented.
Acuity’s front-end development teams help clients work with a variety of technology stacks – from monolithic CMS with legacy frameworks such as jQuery to modern headless solutions based on React, Angular, Vue, Next.JS and Svelte.
Integrating gamification in digital marketing campaigns
Gamification is a trend that has been applied across multiple disciplines to maximise audience engagement. This involves integrating game-like elements such as a public display of performance on leader boards and rewarding users for activities to drive motivation. It could be as simple as a quiz, in which participant scores are publicly posted and winners are given gifts. A company could integrate clues to the quiz across its web, email and social media content, incentivising keen participants to engage with the brand.
Gamification needs to be conceptualised at a strategic level, as it would need to involve almost every aspect of digital marketing. Some innovative brands made use of the non-fungible token (NFT) trend last year and gifted enthusiastic users with specially minted NFTs. Web3 and the decentralised model of services could also be used in the gamification context. Savvy users engaging with a website or app can collect tokens or coins on their digital wallet as they interact with brand content. This is a concept trialled by the Basic Attention Token (BAT) and Brave browser community.
Organisations in the financial services space leveraging Acuity’s digital marketing services are best placed to plan and execute a gamification campaign. They can leverage capacity and expertise across digital marketing disciplines including creative design, web content management, marketing automation, SEO, analytics and front-end/CMS development to design and run integrated campaigns.
Embracing the shift to video and podcast content amid diminishing budgets
There has been a gradual shift in the format of content disseminated by firms in financial services in recent years. Marketing teams gradually experimented with increased use of video and podcast content to cater to variations in content consumption patterns. Video and podcast content proved to be more engaging than pure text-based content. However, teams had to navigate a few impediments.
Video and podcast content is not as SEO-friendly as text content. This is due to the nature of search-engine crawlers that have limited capability to decode and interpret content from non-text media. To counter this, marketing teams need to supplement such content with elaborate text-based descriptions or even full transcripts. Additionally, unlike text content, there is significant effort needed to provide audio and video content. The process begins with planning the content, capturing audio and video, and selecting stock content. Following this, the content needs to be trimmed and edited, transitions and captions added, and the final output rendered to different video and audio formats.
On the plus side, companies with video-production capabilities can capitalise on the trend of short-form vertical videos. These are short videos of 30-60 seconds designed for platforms such as Instagram Reels, Facebook stories, YouTube Shorts, TikTok and Snapchat. These videos can then be sponsored on such platforms or used for organic reach. The rapidly increasing popularity of these videos presents marketers with a unique opportunity to tap into millions of viewers in a highly engaging manner.
The full production cycle of video and audio content is resource-intensive and given the current economic climate, firms may choose to deprioritise this. In contrast, firms leverage Acuity’s creative services teams to cost-efficiently produce audio and video material, continuing to deliver highly engaging content regardless of cost pressures on budgets. Our teams ensure video and podcast content is delivered at shorter turnaround times while maintaining quality standards.
Finding synergies with AI
The rapid adoption of ChatGPT and its subsequent integration into Microsoft Bing heralds the age of AI. Users are now intuitively engaging with bots and language models. Digital marketers need to play close attention to this trend and position their brands and systems to capitalise on this. There are two immediate steps marketers can take.
First, they need to rethink their approach to web content. Material on websites should not only be search engine-friendly, but also bot-friendly. If bots can easily process the content and absorb it, it will be used as source material for language models and potentially feature in answers provided to users. To do this, the content must be easily understood and logically structured. The use of clearly defined headings, bullet points and numbered lists can make it easy for bots to ingest data. The context of the content should also be clearly defined.
In addition to creating content for bots, firms in financial services could also leverage chatbots to conversationally provide information. There are several tools, such as ZenDesk’s Answer Bot, which can be integrated into a website. Microsoft’s Bot Framework Composer can also be used to design, train and test bots. Firms could also integrate bots with their data and content sources to make it more contextually aware. For example, on an investment manager’s website, a bot should be able to provide data related to a product when asked for it.
Acuity can help clients construct a roadmap for adopting AI in digital marketing. We help restructure and rewrite content to cater to both search-engine crawlers and AI bots, and can help with integrating chatbots based on popular AI platforms.
Digital marketing professionals in financial services need to be on the lookout for opportunities in changing consumer behaviour, new media formats and revolutionary social platforms to stay ahead of the competition. On the other hand, they must cope with diminishing budgets and capacity constraints that present an existential risk. At this juncture, an outsourcing partner such as Acuity could be the key to success, providing specialist support and cost-effective bandwidth to help explore new initiatives and scale up campaigns.
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About the Author
Arquib is a part of the firm’s Financial Marketing Services (FMS) division. Within the FMS team, he focuses on digital marketing solutions for Acuity Knowledge Partners clients.
He has over nine years of experience helping clients with frontend development, web content management, marketing automation, analytics, and creative services. Prior to joining Acuity, he was a marketing executive and business analyst at a global provider of human resource solutions.
Arquib holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Business Management from the University of Westminster, UK and a Professional Graduate Diploma in IT from the British Computer Society.
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